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You wait ages for one then two come along

Posted on Nov 19 2009
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Earlier this year, our Senior Consultant Ludovic Lemaignen was on standby to inspect a burned out container at a foreign port, suspected to be the origin of a fire aboard a container ship. ASK Consultants had been instructed on behalf of the ship’s insurers to carry out the inspection, take samples for analysis and try to determine the origin and cause of the fire.


On its way to the same port was a second ship, carrying a container of the same product, sourced from the same manufacturer. ASK now received further instructions: to take samples of this cargo, in the hope that analysis of the undamaged product might throw light on the cause of the fire. Accordingly, the decision was taken to postpone the original inspection until the container carrying the undamaged cargo arrived, so that both cargoes could be examined and sampled together, thus saving time and expense.


Ludovic had just heard of this decision and was making plans for a leisurely weekend when he received a phone call from the insurers asking if he could travel abroad urgently: the second container had caught fire – and so had the ship (which naturally interrupted its voyage and raced for the nearest port). Ludovic spent a very interesting weekend witnessing the fire fighting effort and inspecting the scant remains of the second container.


This case, which cannot be described in detail as it is still active, highlights a problem ASK Consultants has come across before, more than once. The hazard classification of certain substances under the International Maritime Dangerous Goods (IMDG) code is often based on laboratory tests, which underestimate, or even miss completely, properties that are hazardous under actual conditions of storage at sea. We conclude that the IMDG code is in need of revision.


We have case histories, some with tragic outcomes, to back up our conclusion, and intend to publish a summary as soon as we have clearance to include the above case.


Last changed: Feb 16 2010 at 12:03 PM


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